Bahrain: An open letter to Mr. Barak Obama, the President of the United States of America from the Family of Bahraini prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab


An open letter to Mr. Barak Obama, the President of the United States of America from the Family of Bahraini prominent Human Rights Defender

Nabeel Rajab

President of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights

Member of MENA Advisory Board for Human Rights Watch

Winner of Several International awards for Human Rights including

Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, presented annually by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

Winner of the British Silbury Prize to for his humanitarian and human rights activities

Nabeel was listed by the Arabic American organization for democracy and human rights among the fifteen "leaders of the Arab Spring",

The BCHR led by Nabeel Rajab won Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Advocacy Award to "recognize campaigners or activists who have fought repression, or have struggled to challenge political climates and perceptions."

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Sumaya Rajab, the wife of a prominent Bahraini human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, who is currently jailed in Bahrain. I write this letter in my name, and the names of our son Adam and our daughter Malak to appeal to you to use your influence on the government of Bahrain and on the Security Council of the United Nations to help guarantee my husband’s safety and release from prison and to help support the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice for all the Bahraini people.

Government of Bahrain is considered a close ally for the United States; it is an autocratic monarchy with political system dominated by the ruling Al-Khalifa family, headed by ‘King Hamad Al-Khalifa’ with absolute and unquestionable authority. Next in power comes his non-elected aging uncle ‘Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa’, the prime minister whom has been in his post for 42 years. Rest of the political, judicial and economic powers are distributed among members of the ruling family as, for example, twelve of the twenty-three cabinet ministers appointed in November 2006 were members of the Al-Khalifa royal family.

In addition to being dictatorial monarchy, Bahrain's record on human rights was described by the US based Human Rights Watch as "dismal". Discrimination against the Shiite Muslims majority in Bahrain has been severe and systematic, named “sectarian apartheid” by The Christian Science Monitor. Similar assertion was made in Nicholas Kristof article, "Is This Apartheid in Bahrain?" in New York Times, Feb. 22, 2011.

In 2012, Bahrain is ranked 173rd by Reporters without Borders which makes it one of the world’s 10 most repressive countries, because of its relentless crackdown on pro-democracy movements. In the same report of 2012, Bahrain was placed in the list of Internet Enemies. And according to the Human Right Watch 2011 country report, freedom of association is severely curtailed by an association law, "which prohibits organizations from involvement in political activities”.

Freedom of worship were also seriously violated as during the crackdown against protests in Bahrain, "dozens" of Shiite mosques were leveled by the government according to a report in McClatchy newspapers.

Since the beginning of the Bahraini uprising in Feb 2011 that demanded democracy, social justice and the end of corruption, more than 100 Bahrainis were killed, many of them were innocent children, thousands were systemically imprisoned and tortured, electrocuted, raped, emotionally severed, some were even tortured to death. Thousands others were harassed and fired from their jobs just for participating in peaceful protests. Hundreds of Shiite villages and houses were raided and robbed at dawn by masked security forces, many women were subjected to sexual harassment. For example, US based Physicians for Human Rights reported that during the 2011 uprising the Bahraini government initiated systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel who had witnessed government atrocities while treating civilian protesters.

Even the report issued in November 23, 2011 by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which is formed by Bahrain king in 2011 under extreme international pressure, confirmed the happening of such atrocities. The BICI commission requested the king to release all political prisoners, bring abusers to justice and compensate the victims.  

Nabeel and his colleagues documented most of the above atrocities and communicated it to the international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, IFEX, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders, the International Federations for Human Rights and others. These organizations issued tens of condemnation statements requesting international community to intervene to investigate abuses in Bahrain, to bring torturers to justice and to stop this serious deterioration. But the government of Bahrain ignored all such requests.  

Nabeel’s success in uncovering and documenting such violations was later punished severely by the Bahraini regime. Nabeel knew and has always been willing to pay high price for his HR activism, but never willing to stop. So the Bahraini regime finally decided to put an end to Nabeel’s costly activities, they ordered their sham judicial authorities to fabricate number of cases against Nabeel to silence him and to stop his activities that damaged their reputation internationally. He was recently convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, the charge was “calling for” and “participating in” “illegal gatherings”; the government term for “peaceful protests”. This verdict was described by Amnesty International as a “dark day for justice in Bahrain”. 

Prior to this sentence, Nabeel was convicted and sentenced to 3 months in prison for a single tweet in which he criticized the Prime Minister. Other cases taken against Nabeel were related to his criticism of the security forces and the use of excessive force and torture.

Prior to the imprisonment, the Bahraini security forces launched a campaign of harassment against Nabeel to pressure him to abandon his activities. They attacked our home several times, firing tear gas inside the house at night while Nabeel & his family (including myself, our children and Nabeel’s elderly mother) were asleep. Some of such attacks were documented by video recordings and were communicated to the outside world. Masked security forces raided our home several times dragging Nabeel forcefully in front of our children. It did not stop here, the Bahraini intelligence authorities targeted sources of our family income; they ruined our business and forced Nabeel to give it up. Our children were harassed in schools and were forced to change several schools to escape harassment. I, Nabeel wife, was fired from my government job to make sure that Nabeel’s only and last income was stopped.

Despite all the above, Nabeel never stopped his criticism of the regime and never stopped his HR activities. He was subjected to several arrests, interrogations and torture. Nabeel rejected all these fabricated charges and refused to recognize any court or judicial system that violates international standards of independence and transparency. Dozens of US-based and international human rights organizations issued statements condemning such violations of the rights to freedom of expression, and demanding the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab, and to end this bitter campaign of harassment against Nabeel and his family. They also requested him to be allowed to work freely on his independent human rights activities, but again the Bahraini regime ignored all these calls.

Currently, the prominent HRD Nabeel Rajab is held at Jaw central prison under harsh conditions (dirty cell, no proper air ventilation despite high temperature, solitary confinement, isolation from other political prisoners, totally disconnected from news and updates from the outside world). Nabeel was refused access to the doctor despite the fact that he suffers from eczema, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. On several occasions, the prison administration denied him access to his medication in order to put pressure on him. We, as a family are harassed when we apply to visit him. Also, in contrast to other detainees, he is always brought to the visiting room with his hands handcuffed.

In his last appearance in court in 23rd August, 2012, witnessed and documented by representative from US embassy as well as representatives from French and German embassies, Nabeel plead the world “to intervene” declaring that he “is subjected to physical and psychological torture”, he is “put in a disgusted and dark solitary cell sized 5x7 feet, that looked like birds cage” and he “slept on Iron bed with nylon sheet”. Nabeel shouted in court that “reasons for punishing him is government rage due to pressure from international community”.

Mr. President, my husband Nabeel is facing extreme danger; he is being severely punished for expressing his opinions. We, the family of Nabeel Rajab, appeal to you to put pressure and use your influence to demand the Bahraini authorities to free Nabeel Rajab, and to stop the abuses against him and our family and to allow him to continue his human rights activities as guaranteed by all international conventions. We also appeal to you to support the efforts to bring Bahrain’s human rights abuses to the Security Council of the United Nation to pressure the Bahraini authorities to put an end to all human rights violations committed against the Bahraini people, especially against HRDs such as Nabeel Rajab. We know from past circumstances that government of Bahrain comply with pressures exerted from United States.

Victimized people of Bahrain are calling upon the universal values and principles that United States is embracing. Mr. President, we request your kind intervention to explicitly call for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate and unconditional “release from prison” because Nabeel is prisoner of conscience. The State Department already expressed “Worries” and “Concerns” about Nabeel’s imprisonment but the government of Bahrain ignored all such “Concerns”. Not just Nabeel’s family, actually many US based and international human rights organizations requested the US to intervene in Nabeel Rajab’s case.

I, our son Adam and our daughter Malak, hope that you will take our appeal in consideration because more silence means more abuses and more atrocities. We understand that United States’ attention may currently be focused on HR abuses in other countries, but we believe that democracy, freedom and the respect of human rights is one path for all nations without any exception. People of Bahrain are determined to build a democratic state based on justice, transparency, freedom and equality for all Bahrainis regardless of their sect, religion, color or race.

Thank you very much Mr. President and hope to hear your kind voice for Nabeel and for the peace-loving people of Bahrain.


Bahrain, 25 August 2012

Sumaya Rajab, wife of HRD Nabeel Rajab

Adam Rajab, 15 years old, son of HRD Nabeel Rajab

Malak Rajab, 10 years old, daughter of HRD Nabeel Rajab